So CNN supposedly committed “blackmail”, at least that’s the story according to internet trolls, denizens of 4chan, and white supremacists (which are really distinctions without a difference). For those lucky enough to live outside of the Trumpian media hate machine, I’ll quickly provide a recap of events:
Some racist named HanAssholeSolo created a .gif of President Trump wrestling with the CNN logo and posted it to Reddit. Trump tweeted out the .gif. CNN used public information to identify the source of the .gif as HanAssholeSolo as the source of the meme. Trump denies that he got the .gif from Reddit, but it does not appear that the meme had been shared anywhere else prior to Trump tweeting it out. Andrew Kaczynski at CNN then reached out to HanAssholeSolo for comment by sending him an email. HanAssholeSolo had been the vilest of racists misogynist pieces of shit that Reddit had to offer (see a screen cap of some of his typical posts below), so he* then decided to delete all the offensive posts from his feed and post an apology instead. Acknowledging that HanAssholeSolo had been contrite, Andrew Kaczynski wrote:
“CNN is not publishing HanA**holeSolo’s name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
The internet trolls immediately pounced on that last statement about CNN reserving the right to publish his identity if he reverts to smearing the internet with racist hate. Within hours #CNNBlackmail trended to first place on Twitter. The racist boards at 4chan had announced Operation Autism Storm, a coordinated effort to dox CNN employees and harass CNN’s advertisers. Facebook and Twitter are now abuzz about a “next great meme war”. While most internet harassment takes the form of frog memes and Holocaust denial, we can only assume that channers and the Redditers are fully aware of the hardcore fringe within their movements that they are sure to activate, such as how the ridiculous conspiracy theory of #Pizzagate morphed into an actual shooter.
It is being reported that HanAssholeSolo is a 15-year-old. This is the fake news, pure and simple, and it is unironically being propagated Trump stooges shouting that everything they don’t like is fake new. Andrew Kaczynski, who spoke with HanAssholeSolo on the phone, has identified him as a middle-aged man. Posts to his Reddit feed indicate that he was a teenager when the Hubble telescope was launched in 1990.
Absent actual threats and lies, several trolls are maintaining that CNN had broken federal law, particularly 18 U.S. Code 241 which states:
“If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same… [t]hey shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both…”
The question that none of these trolls answer is, which right has been denied to HanAssholeSolo? Not his right to speak…he can continue to speak just as much as he likes. What they are complaining about is his loss the right to anonymous speech. No such right exists. It is true that there are instances in which the government cannot compel an individual to reveal their identity, but an individual who reveals another individual’s identity is…wait for it…exercising their free speech. The “expectation of privacy” doesn’t cover it either. There can be no expectation of privacy on a public forum visited by 542 million monthly users.
NOTE: Amity Lamberton is not my real name. Just scroll through my comments or others on this magazine for a moment to figure out why choose not to put jot down my mailing address and daytime phone number. I do not oppose anonymous speech, just hate speech.
So, what are we left with? CNN chose NOT to dox a racist internet troll and threatened to take away a right he DOES NOT have if he becomes a racist internet troll again. CNN’s minor threat to prevent an individual from relapsing into the vilest forms of racism that he himself admits is wrong is being met with an organized campaign to silence and bully anyone who would shine light on the racism and casual misogyny that pervades these forums. This threat of doxing, this “new meme war”, will inevitably lead to the targeted harassment of CNN reporters, producers, camera operators, secretaries, clerical workers, and pretty much anyone associated with any news organization which tells the truth about Trump and the alt-right. If the the alt-right wants to make an enemy of the entire established media and make a “meme war” on those terms, we should be ready to meet them. It will not be another #Gamergate. We know their weakness: Even they don’t think what they are doing is right.
* CNN uses the male pronouns